Baseball Coaching Tips for How a Pitcher Should Warmup Before Pitching
Routine is important for people in general. An adult might wake up at the same time every day and perform the same tasks before heading out to work. In baseball, the same is true about routines. Big leaguers will perform certain pregame tasks to prepare for the game like batting practice, taking infield practice, etc. A big league pitcher’s pregame routine will be a lot different from the rest of the team and it is especially important for a pitcher to be 100% ready for the game. With that said, it is especially important for a young pitcher at the younger level to have a good pregame routine. Let’s take a look at some Baseball Coaching Tips for a Pitcher’s Pregame Routine that will help the pitching staff be on their A game!
#1 Total Warmup Time
I prefer the pitcher to be present 45 minutes before game time but at least 30 minutes before game time. I believe this gives the coach enough time to properly prepare the pitcher for game time. A coach should never underestimate the importance of properly warming up the pitcher. A proper warm-up will not only help performance but will help prevent injury. A coach may even decide to scratch the starting pitcher if say, for example, the pitcher complains of a sore elbow while playing catch.
Arrival time is important for all players and especially important for the starting pitcher. If we are basing arrival on a 45-60 minute pregame routine then the pitcher can not be more than 15 minutes late. I feel if the coach sets a window for arrival that is not met by the scheduled starting pitcher then they really need to start warming up another pitcher to make the start. And once another pitcher starts the routine then the coach really needs to follow through with starting that new starting pitcher. This can be an agonizing decision for a coach to have to make and a coach may even decide to bend their own rules in such a situation. The best advice that I can give is that no matter what decision a coach makes then there will be consequences (good or bad) that need to be thought about before making the decision. A coach will have to weigh the pro’s and con’s and live with the results. I would also say that the later the starting pitcher shows up then it makes the decision much easier to just start another pitcher.
#3 Pregame Warm Up
Upon arrival, it might be a good idea to have the pitcher do some type of warm-up routine in which they can also start to mentally focus on the game. Something simple like a light jog and some simple exercises (jumping jacks, high knees, stretching etc). Maybe the catcher can do the warm up with the pitcher to set up the all-important pitcher & catcher relationship for the upcoming game. This would be more of a mental exercise as young players with young muscles don’t really require a lot of warming up before a game. It also sends the message to the opposition that your starting pitcher “means business.”
#4 Play Catch
Next, the pitcher will want to loosen up by playing a simple game of catch. To continue the theme of the pitcher & catcher relationship, I would suggest the pitcher play catch with the catcher. This is a good time for the coach to make sure everything is physically ok with the pitcher. If unfortunately there is a problem and the starter needs to be scratched then there is still plenty of time to prepare an “emergency starter.”
#5 Fielding and Hitting
I see starting pitchers who are allowed to sit on the bench or warm up with the catcher during pre-game infield practice. I believe this is a huge mistake. A pitcher must be physically and mentally prepared to field the ball and make plays on balls hit near the mound. Infield practice is essential for a pitcher’s preparation since it is a defensive position as soon as the pitcher releases the ball. I aslways have my pitcher and catcher go through our hitting station first, even if it is only wiffle balls. It is important to get your hitting timing down and still have time to catch your breath before throwing your pregame bullpen session.
#6 Bullpen Session
The pitcher should throw to the catcher in a bullpen session right before the game. The pitcher can maybe throw anywhere from 10-15 pitches. The pitcher should work on progressive velocity, getting a “feel” for the ball, pitch grips and any special pitches that they might throw (curve, changeup etc).
Again the starting catcher should be catching the bullpen session if possible.
Depending on timing, you may want to work on pitchouts or even pickoff moves.
The coach should also be prepared for the unfortunate late-minute scratch. Pitching is a funny thing and you just never know when a pitcher might not be able to go for some unforeseen physical reason. The last minute scratch is rare but can happen so it won’t hurt for a coach to always have an emergency “plan B.”
#7 Pregame Strategy
Just prior to going out to the mound, the pitcher, catcher and coach should go over a little pregame strategy like how to “attack” certain batters in the opposing lineup.
#8 Official Pregame Warm Up Pitches
When the pitcher goes out to the mound, the umpire will allow for some warm up pitches. This will allow the pitcher to now get a “feel” for the mound. The pitcher will want to work on footwork and foot placement during the warm up. And again the coach will want a “plan B” ready in case of a late scratch due to injury.
Tip: Practice a pitchout when throwing down to second. It is good to get a feel for that important play.
#9 When You’re the Away Team
If the team is away and batting first then the pitcher can continue to mentally prepare to pitch by going over strategy. This would be provided that the pitcher is not at the top of the batter order because in that case, it’s time to focus on offense.
#10 Personalizing the Pregame Routine
The routine outline provided here is meant to be a guide and is not an absolute. Individual coaches can use their own personal preference and experience to make changes. With that said, a pregame routine can also be tailor-made to fit an individual pitcher as well.
It is important for a pitcher to have some kind of pregame routine. For the most part, it will be the coach’s decisions that will establish what the routine will look like. When designing a pregame routine, the coach should consider effectiveness and should not be afraid to make changes to something that isn’t working. A routine still being developed is better than no routine at all.